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Expanding warming centre would be 'noble cause,' says mayor

Officials hope to change temperature threshold for warming centre this winter, double number of nights it will be open
2021-12-16 Orillia Community Church
The Orillia Community Church, shown in this file photo, serves as a warming centre in the winter.

There seems to be some appetite among city council to look at making Orillia’s overnight warming centre a permanent operation.

Linda Goodall, executive director of the Lighthouse shelter, which oversees operation of the winter warming centre at the Orillia Community Church, gave an update to council Monday.

When the city provided funding for the warming centre in 2022, the motion included a stipulation that an update be presented on how the money was spent.

The bulk of the funding — $20,783.11 — went to warming centre co-ordinator wages, while more than $11,000 was spent on other staff wages. Supplies, training, and professional fees accounted for the rest.

The proposed budget for the 2023-24 season is $77,262.38. That includes $31,500 in city funding previously approved by council.

In 2022-23, 345 beds were used and the centre was open 30 nights. Goodall wants to see that extended to 60 nights for the upcoming winter season. It’s the maximum number of nights that can be accommodated with the resources currently available.

Initially, the warming centre opened on nights when the temperature was expected to hit at least -15 degrees Celsius — a threshold set by the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit. For the 2023-24 season, the Lighthouse wants to have the warming centre open on nights when the temperature is -10 C or colder.

“I think it’s a noble cause,” said Mayor Don McIsaac. “I think -15 is a bit cruel because that’s when flesh freezes. I think we could probably do better.”

He said he realized the centre shouldn’t be used as another shelter, but added the city should look at making it a permanent operation in the winter.

Coun. Tim Lauer agreed.

“I completely support the notion of this being a continuous service throughout the winter, regardless of the temperature. It’s definitely needed,” he said. “At any time, Mayor McIsaac, if you want to get aggressive on that one, I’ll support it.”

Goodall, too, supported the idea but said additional assistance would be needed to make it a reality.

“We would be more than happy if there was another organization that wants to work with us or to take it over,” she said.

She noted the warming centre can be referred to as an “overflow shelter.” The Lighthouse is at capacity and doesn’t have the space or resources to double as a public warming centre.

“One thing the overflow centre is not is a destination,” she said. “It’s not somewhere to have meals and movies and popcorn. It’s a place to get warm and stay safe, and then get services outside of that.”


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Nathan Taylor

About the Author: Nathan Taylor

Nathan Taylor is the desk editor for Village Media's central Ontario news desk in Simcoe County and Newmarket.
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